I walked down the stairs of the Canal Street N/Q/R/W entrance on a sunny but chilly morning. Groggy and sleepy-eyed, I made my way to the platform to wait for the next downtown train to get to work. On most days, I think to myself, “I spend more time at my office than on campus” and I yearn for more time to rest, more time to do the activities I enjoy, more time to see the people I love, just more time.
The train arrives and I plop down onto a faded yellow seat, closing my eyes with the louding rattling of the train carts fighting to overcome the music playing from my headphones. As strange as it sounds, the New York City subway is where I learn the most about the way this city works, all of the different quirks and personalities of its people. It’s where I see the most creative of all creatives demonstrate their art and performances, where I see the nurturing love of a mother as she soothes her child from the loud noises, where I see the kindness come out of New Yorkers despite being notorious for not being nice.
But perhaps the most unsettling thing is, the subway is also where I see forms of injustice and disservice to us as citizens and human beings. It’s where I see a man in a wheelchair struggling to get on due to the gap between the platform and the train, where I see an unhoused person get dragged off by the NYPD for sleeping on a bench, where I see harmless snack vendors getting arrested and having their belongings taken away. As someone who was born here and is still here, I know that this city can be cruel and unfair. It can be so unforgiving and ruthless, not even allowing you a second to catch your breath and to figure yourself out. In this city, time waits for no one.
I sometimes surrender to the harshness of this reality. Some days, I feel so unmotivated to get out of bed, to have a productive day at work, even to talk to my friends and respond to their texts. I tell myself that I’ll take another day to rest and recharge because it shouldn’t hurt to be kind to yourself. And that’s okay.
There are times where I feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, partially due to the high standards I set for myself, but also because I feel as if the world is impending doom and there must be something done about it. What’s paradoxical is that as an individual, it’s hard for me to believe that we can produce massive change just by one person’s actions. But one thing I do believe is that there is power in numbers, power in collectivity and unity. There’s power in compassion, empathy, and understanding.
And that’s exactly why I decided to stick with Alpha Phi Omega and become a VP of Service despite showing up to rush with no serious intentions. I discovered how good it feels to feel like I’m able to contribute something meaningful to our communities and to encourage others to do the same. That someone who also feels the weight of the world on their shoulders can have some helping hands, that someone who may be struggling feels like there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel. That there is still opportunity to live the life we want. I have hope that we can change the narrative around not everyone being meant for this city. This city is meant to be for us all.
Maggie *Ivy* Huang
Beta Xi, Fall 2022
Co-VP of Service | Spring '23